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Chris

V9.2 Balance / Gameplay feedback thread

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On the subject of secondary weapons. My general view of them has been that they (should) have two roles. One is a cheap, TU-wise, backup weapon. Especially the pistol. The other role is for close-quarters combat, such as in the UFO, for soldiers whose main weapon isn't a good fit for that.

For the pistol to work as such a backup weapon, the changes by Max seem very much the right path to take.

But for the other case, I think the game needs to penalize certain weapons at close distances. The sniper rifle shouldn't be useful in UFOs or a building's corridors. A sniper soldier that has to fight in close quarters should rely on the secondary.

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Smoke

I'm a bit conflicted about smoke. On the one hand, smoke is an invaluable resource, especially when you're starting out. Judicious application of smoke can effectively maze enemies, block off lines of attack and cover both retreats and attacks. On the other hand, smoke is spammable and very abusable because you can have lots of it. Is there some happy medium? Perhaps smoke should have three categories. Can't see through it (e.g. humans). Can see through it (e.g. Sebillians). Can see through it but applies a malus to-hit (e.g. psychic Psyons). 

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Smoke might need some thought, yes. While I am not a fan of artificial limits on items you carry, such as limiting smoke to 1 per soldier, smoke grenades are too powerful currently. They pretty much act like a wall, offering perfect cover for your exposed soldiers, protecting a flank, etc. I see a few possibilities for improving smoke balance.

1. Make it reduce accuracy significantly instead of just setting it to 0. Units in smoke should still be theoretically possible to hit, although rarely. In X1, accuracy would be reduced for each smoke tile in the firing path. Importantly, this change means units in smoke can get suppressed.

2. Let the smoke build up over one turn. Currently, the smoke grenade pops and you get the thick cloud, which then partially dissipates the next turn. Smoke buildup should perhaps be the same - the grenade pops and only covers some tiles in smoke. Say, the grenade tile itself, and then a 50% chance for each tile within 2. Then on the next turn let the smoke screen reach its full size.

3. Changes to alien AI. Let the aliens exploit your smoke by running into it and hiding. Make them throw grenades into smoke.

I suspect that slowing down the buildup of smoke in particular would improve the game. It would make smoke much harder to use as an "oh shit" button to give perfect protection to a soldier caught in a bad position, while encouraging planned use of smoke such as crossing a dangerous open area after throwing a couple of smokes and waiting for them to build a thick cloud.

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OK, I'm working through this post now. Some good points raised here. To answer the main ones:

Early Tech Tree: The functionality for upgrading items into other items is now in the game and will be arriving in V10, so the early-game tech tree now contains two upgrade projects that allow you to upgrade your Ballistics to do 20% more damage, or upgrade your Combat Armour into the Warden Vest which gives substantially more protection (both cost 10 Alloys). I've therefore made the starting Combat Armour a bit weaker (20% Resist) and the Warden Vest offers 30% Resist, whereas the Wolf-equivalent armour offers 55% resist. 

The idea here is that players can either spend resources to do a quick "bridging" upgrade for their starting equipment, or they can skip past it to try and reach the Lasers / Wolf as fast as possible - but that would mean using basic ballistics and conventional armour until about the time Destroyers (formerly Corvettes) start arriving. As an aside, I'm a little unconvinced about how well resistance %s are working for the armour system and I'm tempted to experiment with having armour add bonus HP to soldiers instead. But that's a discussion for a later date.

Air Combat: The air combat had a number of issues in it in V9, the biggest one being that units were able to instantly turn at their maximum rotation rate. In X1 it takes a Condor interceptor 3 seconds to start turning at maximum speed, and it's even longer for the UFOs - which gives combat a nicer feel where units don't instantly react to your units flying past, they're more like boats that take a bit of time to start turning. The other issue was the AI pathfinding not slowing down the UFOs when it would be beneficial to do so ... so flying past a fast UFO that had a slow turn speed (like a Scout) would just cause it to endlessly fly extremely quickly in a large circle well beyond weapon range.

This stuff has been fixed up now and the units behave more like they did in X1. Now the combat is working properly I'll take a look at the weapon balancing compared to X1 and see if the UFOs are still overpowered.

Androns: I'll also play the game a little further to balance out when Androns start appearing and see if they are unreasonably tough before V10 comes out, thanks for the heads up.

SMG / Pistol: I'm not averse to making changes but they do need to be distinct from one another and the primary weapons. These are the constraints of the niche that I see:

  • Neither the pistol or the SMG should do more damage per TU than a Primary weapon would, even once taking the short range bonus into account - this is my concern with making the pistol have a low TU cost to fire and high damage; at point blank range it could be a bit of a monster. You could counterbalance that by giving it a low Accuracy though so it was only effective at short range.
  • The SMG should be noticeably heavier than the Pistol, but it should be better overall. You should want to take the SMG if you have weight available.
  • Having the pistol have 7-8 shots per clip but lighter clips is fine by me, and having the SMG be burst only but relatively low damage per shot is also fine - as long as the SMG has higher overall DPS per TU.
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Since the discussion has turned to secondary weapons balance again, it bears repeating that melee weapons are broken balance-wise, primarily due to their low accuracy. I've encountered situations where I send a soldier up to an alien with a stun baton, miss 3 times, which then leaves the soldier dead. The combat knife is even worse of course.

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Armour resistances

Consider the alien plasma rifle. It has a base damage of 55. The proposed tactical armour reduction of 20% means it would do 44 base damage. Human HP ranges from 40-60, so the base resistance of tactical armour would mean a one-shot kill or leave the solider on very low health. At 30% (warden), that would do 39 base damage. At 55% (Wolf) it would be significantly reduced to 25. That's still life threatening, but isn't a one-shot. 

Because, by necessity, alien weapons start off with a damage value sufficiently high enough to kill a human while taking into account the 50% +/- random damage factor, any resistance percentage below 40% makes the armour feel as if it isn't worth it. This is less true for mag weapons than plasma, because while the mag rifle has an aggregate damage of 90, that's split up over 3 shots. A squaddie in tactical armour isn't going to survive being hit three times by a mag rifle, but is more likely to survive 1 or 2 hits. Plasma is going feel more scary and armour more worthless simply because it dumps all its damage into 1 hit.

Is that a bad thing, though? The history of human armour has mostly developed around defeating and absorbing kinetic impacts. Humans have little experience with DEW and none as it's presented in X1. So humans are at a disadvantage both in experience and technology. Perhaps this could be worked into the backstory and the lore for tactical armour, and perhaps the heavy armour module or the warden upgrade be developed in response to plasma as much as mag? 

 

EDIT: Plasma rifle is actually 55, so numbers have been edited for real value. 

 

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